Abnormal growths on the inner wall of the uterus that protrude into the uterine cavity are called polyps. Uterine polyps are caused by the overgrowth of endometrial cells – the cells that make up the lining of the uterus. They can range from the size of a seed (a couple millimeters) to the size of an egg (a few centimeters).
Most uterine polyps are noncancerous, although some of them are cancerous or may become cancerous if left untreated. Women taking tamoxifen (a common treatment for breast cancer) are at an increased risk for uterine polyps. High blood pressure and obesity also raise your risk of developing uterine polyps.
Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
Some cases of uterine polyps have no symptoms, but others can present with:
- Heavy or frequent periods
- Unpredictable periods, irregular bleeding, or bleeding between periods
- Vaginal bleeding postmenopause
- Difficulty getting pregnant
These symptoms could be indicative of many different gynecological conditions. If you’re bleeding irregularly or having a hard time getting pregnant, make an appointment with your OB-GYN for evaluation.
Testing for Uterine Polyps
If your OB-GYN believes you may have uterine polyps, there are a few tests which can help diagnose the condition.
In a transvaginal ultrasound, your gynecologist will insert a thin wand into your vaginal canal to generate and image of your uterus. Your doctor may also want to perform a sonohysterography, in which your uterus is filled with saline prior to the ultrasound. This procedure helps provide a clearer view of the uterine cavity.
A thin, flexible instrument with a lens and light at the end is inserted into your vaginal canal and through the cervix to allow the doctor to view your uterine lining.
Your doctor will take a sample of your endometrial tissue and send it to the lab for testing. The tests may reveal if you have uterine polyps. A biopsy can also show if your polyps have become cancerous.
Treatments for Uterine Polyps
Most polyps, especially smaller ones, will resolve on their own. Many doctors will want to keep an eye on the polyps before recommending treatment. However, if they are larger or if your doctor suspects they will cause you problems, they may recommend:
Some hormone therapies, like GnRH agonists and progestins, can ease the symptoms of polyps, however, the relief is usually short-term. Once you stop taking the drugs, the symptoms reappear.
Your doctor can typically remove polyps during a hysteroscopy. Once removed, the tissue can be sent to the lab to test for cancerous cells. If the tests indicate that you have uterine cancer, your doctor will want to discuss more aggressive treatment options.